The following is a collection of reviews of eleven of my favourite albums of 2011, a top 11 of 2011 if you will. I’d like to note that while these releases are technically my top 11 albums, all of the songs featuring on today’s program I enjoyed and encourage you to check them out (info can be found in the play list below).
1. The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
Arabia Mountain features sixteen tracks, all of which sound fresh and exciting while at the same time staying true to the bands ethics. Working with producer Mark Ronson has helped Black Lips and their songs to reach their maximum potential. Lyrically the album features many songs that reflect a narrative based nature, sounding mature while at the same time keeping true to the unique tenacious style. Amongst the sixteen tracks found here you will find elements of Surf, 60s Garage, 70s Punk, and Psychedelic music. After six albums this album serves as a new starting point for the group, while fans often choose 2005’s Let It Bloom and 2007’s Good Bad Not Evil as the bands best work, Arabia Mountain serves as a new contender. The band has never sounded better on record and as a result, this may be not only one of the bands strongest produced efforts, but also one of their best albums so far.
To read more of my thoughts on this album visit http://revrock.blogspot.com/2011/06/new-direction-black-lips-arabia.html
2. Indian Wars – Walk Around The Park
Indian Wars are a band that comes from Vancouver, BC. Walk Around The Park was released in April 2011 and has an interesting array of influences. While the band is often labelled as a Garage Rock band, drawing comparisons from band such as The Black Lips and King Khan & BBQ Show, they also have underlying Country Rock influences. They have been said to also be influenced by The Band, George Jones and Dead Ghosts (another Vancouver Garage Punk band). The combination proves for a an interesting blend of Garage Rock and Country with tracks such as “Old Hotel”, “20,000 Cans”, “Bullfrog”, “Won’t Do A Thing”, their influences are diverse and at times hybridic. Lyrically and musically the album conjures up images that are reminiscent of songs once heard by artists such as Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills and Nash with a dash of Garage Rock and Punk mentality for good measure, this certainly is one interesting walk around the park.
3. The Mark Inside – Nothing To Admit
In 2010, Toronto's Mark Inside released their False Flag EP, and in November of this year they released Nothing To Admit, their second full length album. In 2008, the band went to the UK and began work on Nothing To Admit, over the course of six weeks. The album was produced by Jim Abbiss, an acclaimed UK producer who has worked with artists such as Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. Signing to Jim Abbiss' own Metalbox Recordings label (and Sony Music Canada in Canada), the False Flag EP followed in October of 2010. Nothing To Admit came out on November 1st, 2011 and adds to the EP expanding it adding more depth than on False Flag.
The album features great Post-Punk themed tracks “There Is Nothing To Admit”, “Lime Green Monkeys” and “Questions”, while at the same time dipping into Garage Rock on tracks such as “House of Cards”. “The Bottom Line” is a track that is worth the price of admission of the album alone, the song which has charted on the Canadian Alternative Rock charts at # 31, is a slower soulful track that is lyrically a different kind of working m`ns anthem one that addresses issues surrounding big corporations. “Shots From A Broken Bottle” a single released from the album is another track that makes this album not only unique, but great. It is a song that simmers with elements of Blues and builds to a soulful roar. The album ends with the bands usual live set closer “The Sky Is Falling Down”, the song captures the bands live energy, which is never short of explosive and it clocks in at over seven minutes. Nothing To Admit features a variety of influences from Garage Rock, Post-Punk, Blues and Alternative, it is the sound of a great Canadian live band coming into their own.
4. Papermaps – Papermaps
In April 2011, Papermaps released their first full length album, simply titled Papermaps. Like a paper map, the Papermaps album charts into new musical territory using Central Meaner Street as a starting point, the band has currently ventured into Power Pop influenced territory. Papermaps features ten well crafted Pop songs mixed in with other elements that gives you something that keeps you on your toes. The albums opener “Angela” sets a tone for the overall album building as it progresses, it features predominately guitar/bass and drums. Near the end there is a splash of synthesizer which gives the listener a tasty bite of what’s to come. The second song featured on the album is the piano driven sing-a-long “Reunion”, which has done very well on Independent campus radio based charts, the third song on the album is the guitar driven and energetic “Can’t Make A Living” which moves the listener along the albums ten track course. “Complicate Things” is a moody yet synthesized anthemic Dance Rock track, while “Exit” is one the heaviest tracks on the album. “Coddled” is a song that starts off like a solo John Lennon outtake, reminiscent of a lullaby before it picks up in to all its loud glory, “You Are My Gallows” ends the album with a call and response dynamacism. Papermaps blurs the lines of their musical territories for a sound that is all their own. A second full length album is due to be released in the fall of 2012.
I did an interview with Dean of Papermaps in November just before a show they played in Windsor, it can be heard here:
5. Sloan – The Double Cross
This May Sloan released their 10th full length album The Double Cross, which also marked their 20th anniversary as a band. The album features twelve new tracks building on their addictive Pop Power formula. The Double Cross starts off with "Follow The Leader" a song penned by bassist Chris Murphy, the drum and tambourine heavy Rock song has a seventies flavour. The song segue ways into "The Answer Was You" which is a Pop song written by Jay Fergusson, it sounds as if it would have fit perfectly on their 1996 release One Chord To Another. The album also features "She's Slowing Down Again" a song by drummer Andrew Scott, which sounds like it could have been from the 1998 album Navy Blues. According to Scott, the song has been around for a while. Other interesting tracks include "Unkind", a Patrick Pentland number, which is the first single for the album and "It's Plain To See", which is yet another high energy Pentalnd song. In addition to these, other tracks of note include "Shadow of Love" a song in a similar vein as “G Turns to D”, the acoustic Pop of "Green Gardens, Cold Montreal", "Beverly Terrace", and "I've Gotta Know". There is also the song "Traces", a song written by Andrew Scott that features bassist Chris Murphy on drums. The Double Cross which in Roman numerals is XX means twenty, has many songs that fans can identify with and love, but at the same time it also has a fresh sound and feel to it. Sloan has now been around for twenty years and with yet another album and tour underway, they show no sign of stopping anytime soon.
In May I Interviewed Sloan's Chris Murphy live on my program, it can be heard here:
6. Brazilian Money – This Is Not A Dream
This album kind of came out of nowhere this year. Brazilian Money are based out of Edmonton, Alberta and are essentially just one person Garrett Johnson. This Is Not A Dream is filled with catchy sometimes weird junkyard gems, displaying elements of Garage Rock and Lo-Fi music such as Pavement at times. Brazilian Money has garnered other comparisons to bands such as Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols and are labelled as experimental when loading their music in itunes, but they are difficult to pin down. This album has great tracks such as "Give Up That Dog", "Then You'll Know", "Party Till I'm Dead", and the gritty "Nobody's Coming". An EP also followed this year titled Jive With The Killer Instinct that is six tracks long, it is essential if you liked This Is Not A Dream. Check them out for yourselves at http://brazilianmoney.bandcamp.com
7. The Strokes – Angles
Many critics hailed this album as a return to form when The Strokes released their first single from the album “Undercover of Darkness”. While the song is a return to form of sorts, it sounds as if it combines elements from the bands first album Is This It? with songs from their second album Room On Fire. The song could be described as “Last Nite” meets “Reptilia”. It is a strong song found on the album, which shows off many different colours, sometimes leaning in the experimental electronic sounding direction. As a whole, Angles is heavily rooted in the 80s, the first track “Machu Picchu” is a song that was originally conceived by guitarist Nick Valensi and has a Reggae flavour in the verses with Rock sounding choruses, sounding fresh and retro at the same time. The first line “I’m putting your patience to the test” is a declaration of what is to come musically, the songs are at times familiar sounding, at other times different leaning either in an 80s influenced or electronic influenced direction.
Critics have also been fast to attack the album, but it has many strong moments. “Two Kinds of Happiness”, another Valensi original sounds like an 80s song from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, exemplifying The Strokes slower, but catchy groove, while “Taken For A Fool” sounds like an outtake from The Strokes Room On Fire album, “Gratisfaction” is a guitar heavy track, sounding like classic Strokes, but at the same time sounding like a song that could have been on their last studio effort First Impressions of Earth, “Life Is Simple In The Moonlight” ends the album and ties up all the loose ends. It is an encompassing, catchy track with lingering synthesizers, dual guitar lines, and lyrics from Casablancas stating “Don’t try to stop us, get out of the way” that brings the album musically and lyrically full circle. The Strokes have returned with Angles an album of many eclectic shades and colours, but also one with elements that fans have come to identify and love.
To read more of my thoughts on Angles visit http://revrock.blogspot.com/2011/03/strokes-angled-show-345.html
8. The Pack AD – Upersons
In September 2011, The Pack A.D released Unpersons. This album further displays the bands evolving sound and adds different elements into the mix. Unpersons elevates the Pack A.D’s sound making them sound bigger most likely due to Detroit producer Jim Diamond, who adds edge to the bands sound. On this album the band truly have evolved at a sound that is both different and as fascinating as their past. The albums title originates from the novel 1984, which is a form of “newspeak” meaning someone who has been stripped of rights, identity or humanity. While The Pack A.D have not been stripped of their musical identity, they do venture into new and different music territory and lyrically the songs reflect a dystopian view and plays into the titles meaning. Unpersons finds the band exploring the very elements of their sound, reconstructing themselves with their brand of raw Blues, Garage and Punk which has made them a Mint Records artist to watch.
9. The Horrors – Skying
On The Horrors 2009 full length released Primary Colours they took their Garage/Punk influenced sound into a Post Punk direction and on Skying they advance their sound into yet another direction. Combining elements of Post Punk stylings with elements of Shoe Gaze, this album shows the band coming into their own. Recorded at their own studio in the UK, songs such as “Still Life” which has drawn comparisons to Simple Minds, “I Can See Through You” features over driven guitars, and “Monica Gems” to name a few that add to this albums aura. Skying shows The Horrors building on the atmospheric and Jesus and The Mary Chain influenced sounds that first appeared on 2009’s Primary Colours while at the same time re-focusing themselves musically into a clearer stronger image.
10. Deer Tick – Divine Providence
The fourth full length release from Rhode Islands Deer Tick bites down hard and adheres to their rowdy, beer drinking image. This album shows a band embracing their roots and having a good time doing it. While there are still elements of Country and Folk which the band are known for having, the band is also much heavier, in a good way. The albums feel and themes are set forth by the lyrics to the first track on Divine Providence “The Bump”, in which singer John McCauley says “we’re full grown men, but we act like kids”. The strongest track on Divine Providence has to be the song “Main Street” in which the band flexes their Rolling Stones influences musically and lyrically.
11. Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP
This album snuck in just before the end of the year. Thee Oh Sees already released an album in 2011 titled Castlemania, which was also great, but Carrion Crawler/The Dream is a tighter more cohesive sounding release. Thee Oh Sees have been releasing music for years and are known for being quite prolific, two albums in one year even without prior knowledge of the band hints at that. The band started as a vehicle for John Dwyer, who is the driving force behind this band, they were started by Dwyer in order to release instrumental and experimental home based recordings, but it evolved into something else in the process. Dwyer himself has been part of numerous bands (Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, Burmese, The Hospitals to name a few), and this version of Thee Oh Sees on Carrion Crawler/The Dream is perhaps Thee Oh Sees at their best.
As for the rest of my picks, check out my play list below it can also be downloaded as it is a radio show. There are a few other albums that deserve a mention and although they didn't make my list they would have if time permitted. The other albums I’d like to mention are John Doe - Keeper and Tom Waits – Bad As Me.
2011 Play List:
1. The Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling (El Camino, Nonesuch 2011)
2. Beastie Boys - Lee Majors Come Again (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, Capitol 2011)
3. Johnny West – Purgatory Waltz (Medium-Fi Music For Mentally Unstable Young Lovers, Tosteestostas Music 2011)
4. Ty Segall - Booksmarts (Singles 2007-2010, Goner Records 2011)
5. Chang-A-Lang – Monday Again (No Clean Rock and Roll, Self Released 2011)
6. Wire – Clay (Red Barked Tree, Pink Flag 2011)
7. The Rapture – Miss You (In The Grace Of Your Love, Red General Catalog 2011)
8. Reigning Sound – Lyin’ Girl (Abdication...For Your Love, Scion AV 2011)
9. Ry Cooder – Lord Tell Me Why (Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down, Nonesuch 2011)
10. Dum Dum Girls – Just A Creep (Only In Dreams, Sub Pop 2011)
11. Luger Boa – Lazy (New Hot Nights, Stuka Records 2011)
12. The Polymorphines – Anna Lee (The Slip EP, Self Released 2011)
13. Thee Oh Sees – Chem-Farmer (Carrion Crawler/The Dream, In The Red 2011)
14. Deer Tick – The Bump (Divine Providence, Partisan Records 2011)
15. The Horrors – Wild Eyed (Skying, XL Recordings Ltd. 2011)
16. The Pack A.D. – Sirens (Unpersons, Mint 2011)
17. The Strokes – Gratisfaction (Angles, RCA Records 2011)
18. Brazilian Money – Then You’ll Know (This Is Not A Dream, Self Released 2011)
19. Sloan – Shadow of Love (The Double Cross, Yep Roc Records 2011)
20. Papermaps – Complicate Things (Papermaps, EMI Music Canada 2011)
21. The Mark Inside – House of Cards (Nothing To Admit, Metal Box Recordings/Sony Music Canada 2011)
22. Indian Wars – Bullfrog (Walk Around The Park, Bachelor Records 2011)
23. The Black Lips – Modern Art (Arabia Mountain, Vice Records 2011)
24. The Black Lips - Raw Meat (Arabia Mountain, Vice Records 2011)
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 27. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.